The more obsessive reader may recall that, early in the summer, I decided to release my car from its bonded servitude (or some form of hire purchase as the finance company would prefer I call it) by making the soi-disant balloon payment (sadly, no balloon was forthcoming). At this point it became mine (all mine!) and I promised the GofaDM reader that I would start to use it on a more regular basis, i.e. more than twice per year.
I am sorry to report that I find myself to be a liar – since making that rash promise, the car has not moved so much as an inch (relative to the surface of the earth). I will try and blame Edinburgh and volume of work (and work-related travel) for my failure – but would have to admit that I didn’t have any real need to use the poor, neglected vehicle and failed to generate such a need. I have used the car so little for so long, that I have almost completely lost the habit for driving – and struggle to remember why “normal” people do so. The traffic in Southampton and dire state of its roads may also act as a disincentive. The city is oddly traffic-bound for a place so relatively hostile to both pedestrians and cyclists. I feel it should try and satisfy at least one travelling constituency – and I would suggest that those on two wheels or none would be by far the cheapest and would also require much less wholesale demolition of the city (the Germans did their best during the last unpleasantness and town planners tried to finish what they had begun, but still the traffic-hardened arteries of the city can probably only be eased by a major bombing campaign – which, for the avoidance of doubt, I am not advocating).
I have learned at least one thing from this lack of vehicular movement: I am unable to successfully identify a lime tree. Unter den Linden always sounds a wonderfully exciting boulevard in Berlin (immortalised both in song and the Kontakte TV series from which I learned my rather limited German) but it would be no place to park your car. After a mere week or two, my normally red car is rendered almost black – though even this colour is somewhat concealed by the compost-heap of vegetative debris shed by the aforementioned arboreal menace. In my defence, I would say that I have parked the car under at least three different trees – which to my eyes appeared markedly difference in both leaf and more general form – but all swiftly coated my car in gunk. I am starting to wonder if the linden is a shape-changing tree – able to camouflage itself to fox the unwary. Or has the lime been unfairly singled out and, in fact, many trees share its unwanted habits?
Anyway, yesterday my guilt finally overcame my apathy and I took the car out for a little drive. As a treat, I took it over to Southampton’s main (so far as I know) household waste recycling centre (or the “tip” as I will continue to call it). This was to dispose of some junk that has been awaiting this trip for a little over twelve of your earth months – it’s best not to hurry such things. The tip proved functional, though rather poorly labelled compared to my previous experiences in South Cambs – most containers were unlabelled so you have to guess what might belong in them (or ask a tip-man). It is also right down at the docks – if you go any further you have to join a very long line of container lorries – and not very well signposted (by the time you find a signpost you have arrived – it also helps to know the acronym HWRC is going to be important to your excursion). Still, my task was a success. Excitingly, after a mere 39 months the car has finally travelled a total of 2000 miles. Yay!
Actually, before the drive I had to take the car to be washed to enable me to see out – which kept a band of our eastern European brethren busy with soap and power washers for quite some time. Still, my car has once again been restored to its rubicund best. Before the trip, I did a little cycle-based reconnaissance and believe I have found a tree-free location to re-park the old IQ where it is now ensconced. Passing it on my bike earlier today (after 24 hours), I could see that it remained clean and detritus free – so far, so good.
I should also re-make my oath to use the car more often, declarations made in public (or in front of the modest readership of GofaDM) are supposed to be more binding psychologically – and with winter coming (though, hopefully, without ice-based zombies) there should be more excuses to go for a drive. If nothing else, it will keep the battery charged and help me to avoid finding out whether petrol has a “best before” date.